Egypt: Continued arbitrary detention of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban, and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman

30/09/2015
Urgent Appeal

New information
EGY 001 / 0514 / OBS 045.8
Arbitrary detention
Egypt
September 30, 2015

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Egypt.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued arbitrary detention of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, a human rights lawyer known for her activism in favour of the judicial independence and prisoners’ rights by organising peaceful protests, support activities for political prisoners and using social media to denounce human rights violations, together with Mr. Youssef Shaban, a journalist and defender of workers’ rights, and of Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, an independent youth activist.

According to the information received, on September 21, 2015, El Raml Misdemeanour Court of Appeal in Alexandria rejected the demurrer filed by Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman to suspend the implementation of their sentence until the Court of Cassation hears the appeal of the case.

The three had been sentenced on May 31 by the El Raml Misdemeanour Court of Appeal in Alexandria (see Background information).

The Observatory strongly condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman and calls upon the Egyptian authorities to immediately release them and drop all charges against them as they are clearly aimed at hindering their peaceful human rights activities.

This case is an illustration of a wider trend of repression against human rights defenders in Egypt. The Observatory recalls in particular that the restrictive Protest Law, which bans gatherings of ten or more people without a permit issued by the authorities, has been repeatedly used by the authorities as a tool to harass and imprison human rights defenders.

Background information :

On January 2, 2014, Alexandria Manshiya Misdemeanour Court sentenced in absentia Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and seven members of the political group “Revolutionary Socialists”, including human rights lawyer Mr. Hassan Mustafa, and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman to two years’ imprisonment and a fine of EGP 50,000 for “protesting without a permit” and “assaulting security forces” following their participation in a peaceful protest on December 2, 2013 to denounce police violence and in particular the impunity of Khaled Saeed murder (the “Khaled Saeed” criminal case). Khaled Saeed was killed by police forces on June 6, 2010 and subsequently became a symbol of police repression during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry had failed to appear as she had not been informed in advance of the date of the hearing.

On May 20, 2014, the Sidi Gaber Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria rejected the demurrer filed by Ms. Mahienour El-Massry regarding the sentence issued against her in absentia. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry was immediately detained following the hearing.

On May 22, 2014, the Egyptian security forces violently repressed participants to a solidarity march organised outside of the headquarters of Egyptian Center for Economic & Social Rights (ECESR) in Alexandria, following a press conference organised to express support with Ms. Mahienour El-Massry. Several female protesters were sexually harassed by security forces. Some protesters were beaten and arrested by the police. After the march, security forces stormed into ECESR’s headquarters, smashed some of its equipment and arrested several employees.

On July 20, 2014, after successive adjournments, the Sidi Gaber Appeal Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria sentenced Ms. Mahienour El-Massry to six months of prison and a fine of EGP 50,000 (approximately EUR 5,143) for “protesting without a permit” and “assaulting security forces”. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry’s lawyers appealed the sentence before the Court of Cassation.

On September 21, 2014, the demurrer was accepted and the Al Mansheya Misdemeanour Appeals Court decided to suspend the execution of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry’s six-month prison sentence, pending the appeal lodged before the Court of Cassation. This decision followed a request filed by Ms. Mahienour El-Massry’s lawyers challenging the execution of her sentence pending a final outcome.

However, Ms. El-Massry is also facing trial on separate charges for an incident that occurred in March 2013. On May 8, 2014, Ms. El-Massry was referred to court on charges of “assaulting security forces” after, in March 2013, she, other lawyers and human rights activists went to Raml police station to provide legal assistance to three lawyers who were arrested and sent to the police by supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood (the “Raml police station” case). The lawyers were attacked by the police in the police station, and Ms. El-Massry was detained briefly before the Prosecution decided to release her and the others. The trial was then postponed several times following the resignation of the appointed judge from the bench. The case was heard on July 21, 2014 and then postponed to October 13 and November 17, 2014.

On November 17, 2014, the Raml Misdemeanour Court held a hearing in the “Raml police station” criminal case. The court heard three testimonies provided by witnesses presented by the defence. The defence additionally requested the court to summon the persons who filed the complaint against Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, and to include the administrative police case report. The Court then adjourned the hearing until December 8.

On February 9, 2015, the El Raml Misdemeanour Court in Alexandria sentenced Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, together with Messrs. Youssef Shabaan and Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman and seven activists to two years in jail. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry was not detained after the issuance of the verdict, as she paid bail (approximately EUR 580) pending appeal. Ms. Mahienour El-Massry filed a demurrer to challenge the above-mentioned sentence.

On May 11, 2015, the El Raml Misdemeanour Court of Appeal in Alexandria heard the appeal of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman (who was then already arbitrarily imprisoned in relation to another case), along with seven other activists. On that occasion, the court ordered the remand in custody of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry and Mr. Youssef Shaban.

On May 31, 2015, the El Raml Misdemeanour Court of Appeal in Alexandria setenced Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman along with seven other activists to one year and three months imprisonment for storming El Raml police station in Alexandria and assaulting police officers as well as torching the Freedom and Justice party headquarters (the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood) in March 2013 on charges of “protesting without authorisation”, “disrupting traffic”, “damaging content of the Police Station”, “attacking security forces”, “spreading fear and terror among citizens” and “attempt to smuggle prisoners”.

Their lawyers appealed the sentence before the Court of Cassation.

Actions requested :

Please write to the authorities of Egypt asking them to :

i. Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman ;

ii. Drop all charges against Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman, as they are clearly aimed at hindering her peaceful human rights activities and put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level against them, and more generally all human rights defenders in Egypt ;

iii. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Mahienour El-Massry, Mr. Youssef Shaban and Mr. Loay Mohamed Abdel Rahman as well as all human rights defenders in Egypt ;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular with :

its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of Human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels” ;
its Article 5(a) : “For the purpose of promoting and protecting Human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”
its Article 6(a), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of Human rights and fundamental freedoms” ;
its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration” ;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Egypt.

Addresses :

• President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, H.E. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Abedine Palace, Cairo, Egypt, Fax : +202 23901998
• Prime Minister, Mr. Sherif Ismail, Magles El Shaab Street, Kasr El Aini Street, Cairo, Egypt. Fax : + 202 2735 6449 / 27958016. Email : primemin@idsc.gov.eg
• Minister of the Interior, General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, Ministry of the Interior, El-Sheikh Rihan Street, Bab al-Louk, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail : moi1@idsc.gov.eg, Fax : +202 2579 2031 / 2794 5529
• Minister of Justice, Mr. Ahmed El Zend, Ministry of Justice, Magles El Saeb Street, Wezaret Al Adl, Cairo, Egypt, E-mail : mojeb@idsc.gov.eg, Fax : +202 2795 8103
• Public Prosecutor, Counsellor Nabeel Sadek, Dar al-Qadha al-Ali, Ramses Street, Cairo, Egypt, Fax : +202 2577 4716
• Mr. Mohamed Fayeq, President of the National Council For Human Rights, Fax : + 202 25747497 / 25747670. Email : nchr@nchr.org.eg
• H.E. Ms. Wafaa Bassim, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in Geneva, 49 avenue Blanc, 1202 Genève, Switzerland, Email : mission.egypt@ties.itu.int, Fax : +41 22 738 44 15
• Embassy of Egypt in Brussels, 19 avenue de l’Uruguay, 1000 Brussels, Belgium, Fax : +32 2 675.58.88 ; Email : egyptembassy@embassyofegypt.be

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Egypt in your respective country.

Paris-Geneva, September 30, 2015

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line :
• E-mail : Appeals@fidh-omct.org
• Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
• Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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